Future Stars: BTS (Big Hit Entertainment)

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In One Direction’s absence, the title of the world’s biggest boyband undoubtedly belongs to a K-pop act. As BIGBANG are also on hiatus, it’s down to S.M. Entertainment’s Korean-Chinese group EXO, or Big Hit Entertainment’s BTS. When it comes to crossing over to the western music market, BTS are charging ahead. Formed in 2013, the seven-member group has released two albums in Korean and two in Japanese, plus a series of chart-topping EPs. After an impressive 2017, including a Billboard Music Award win and record breaking video views, they released their latest EP Love Yourself: Her last week. It reached the UK album chart top 20 and iTunes chart no.1, and went top 10 in Australia and New Zealand. The lead single DNA got 50 million YouTube views in five days, and was the first song by a K-pop group to enter Spotify’s Global Top 50. The video is colourful, cute and slick, while the track has a Europoppy sound. In a rare deference to western artists, Best of Me from the EP is produced by The Chainsmokers’ Andrew Taggart. In recent years, some Korean stars have caved to pressure to record English tracks and reinterepret their act for the international market, with little effect. The global success of groups like BTS shows it’s unnecessary to sacrifice their identity or pander to western ideals. A European tour would be appreciated, though.

Future Stars: Billie Eilish (Polydor/Interscope)

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Last week I started drafting my Stars of 2018 list, mainly so I could note down Billie Eilish, who I think will be all over the ‘ones to watch’ features next year. She’d just turned 14 when she popped onto my radar with Ocean Eyes in early 2016, and now at the grand old age of 15 she’s in the midst of her major label launch. Billie is a typical LA teenager, equal parts cool and precocious. Her middle name is Pirate. She’s from a family of actors and musicians, and her brother Finneas O’Connell, who appeared in the last series of Glee, is her main co-writer. The song that got her signed was the sweet, introspective Ocean Eyes, which she recently performed on The Late, Late Show With James Corden as part of the Apple Music Up Next series. I prefer the poppier follow-up Bellyache, which has a fun video that sets out her distinctive style and personality. Billie is also known for the piano ballad Bored, which was on the 13 Reasons Why soundtrack. She has a thing for oversized outfits, which look a bit silly, but as she wears them in every promo appearance it makes her stand out more than her music would on its own. I find it hard to imagine there’s a big market for her, but so far signs are actually good – she has the unusual combo of industry buzz and real fans. Her upcoming London gig sold out in 20 minutes, and she already has fan videos with large view counts on YouTube.

Song of the Week: Sofi Tukker ft. The Knocks, Nervo & Alisa Ueno – Best Friend

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This week Sofi Tukker returned to their natural home, soundtracking an Apple ad, and they did it in style. Their hectically brilliant new single Best Friend accompanied the announcement of the new iPhone X. Although the kooky New York duo are the artists taking primary credit for the song, it’s a collaboration with two other, equally Apple-friendly electro-pop duos, The Knocks and Nervo, plus Japanese DJ/influencer Alisa Ueno. The track has a bombastic bassline and a series of sassy hooks – there’s a lot more to it than the “Do you wanna meet me” line from the ad. You may know Sofi Tucker from their 2015 single Drinkee, which was heard in a TV ad for the Apple Watch.

Future Hits: Here come the ice cream man

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My weekly playlist features five tracks I predict will be future hit singles in the UK.

Tracklisting:

  • Niall Horan – Too Much To Ask
  • Craig David – Heartline
  • Jason Derulo – If I’m Lucky
  • Xxxtentacion – Jocelyn Flores
  • Hardy Caprio ft. One Acen – Unsigned

For more Future Hits, subscribe to my  Spotify playlist, updated weekly (when I remember) with the next big thing.

Future Stars: Bhad Bhabie (Atlantic US)

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Bhad Bhabie is the rap pseudonym of viral star Danielle Bregoli. The ‘troubled teen’ became famous from an appearance on Dr. Phil last year, during which she threatened to beat up her mum, called the audience “hos” and coined her catchphrase “cash me outside.” She quickly became a straight-talking social media star with a big YouTube following, and a few months later she released a music video that basically memed herself. A trap remix of her TV appearance became a Billboard Hot 100 hit for DJ Suede the Remix God. Last month she released her official debut single, now rebranded as Bhad Bhabie. The track, These Heaux, not only got her a Hot 100 hit of her own, but also a record deal with Atlantic. You might assume this would be a basic singles deal, but no – according to TMZ it’s a multi-million, multi-album deal. It might seem a bit much, but Danielle has a social media following any new artist would dream of and her drama-filled life makes a great PR angle. Maybe someone just wasted a lot of money, or maybe they made a smart move… time will tell!

Future Stars: Sarah Close (Parlophone)

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I first heard of Sarah Close when scouting talent for Universal a few years ago, when she was a teenager and already had a small following on YouTube. She came to London from her home in the Isle of Wight to audition, and although she wasn’t suited to that project, I knew she was one to watch. She’s a cute, charming girl with a very genuine talent and an English rose vibe. High praise alert: I even thought she could be the British Taylor Swift. I expected that when she finally emerged with her own music (and inevitable major label deal) it would be the sweet singer-songwriter style of Taylor’s teens, but in fact her music is more in line with today’s cool-pop Taylor. She hasn’t yet shown Taylor’s prodigal songwriting prowess, and none of her songs released so far have massive hit potential, but new single Only You is her strongest to date. In the playlist age, there’s a benefit to fitting in, but I think she’ll need to find a more distinctive sound to stand out. I’ll be following her progress optimistically.

Song of the Week: Priest – White Wing Dove

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White Wing Dove is a sweet piece of blissful electro-pop that feels out of place amongst the electronic music of today. The Chainsmokers have had no influence here. Its purity and simplicity reminds me more of the mid-2000s – think Ladytron or Saint Etienne. I discovered the track on Popjustice’s handy New Music Friday playlist, which includes the best of the official NMF playlist and some extra pop treats. Priest are a duo from Orlando, made up of singer Madeline Priest and producer David Kazyk. White Wing Dove comes from their new EP Lost Lions, and they previously released a self-titled album in 2015, full of similarly pleasant tunes.

Future Hits: Not tryna be indie, Not tryna be cool

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

My weekly playlist features five tracks I predict will be future hit singles in the UK.

Tracklisting:

  • Zayn ft. Sia – Dusk Till Dawn
  • Sam Smith – Too Good at Goodbyes
  • Kelly Clarkson – Love So Soft
  • Stefflon Don ft. French Montana – Hurtin’ Me
  • Hailee Steinfeld & Alesso ft. Florida Georgia Line & Watt – Let Me Go

For more Future Hits, subscribe to my  Spotify playlist, updated weekly (when I remember) with the next big thing.

Future Stars: Lil Peep (Unsigned)

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Lil Peep’s sound and look are a 2010s take on the emo trend of the 2000s, and he’s caused controversy not only for his lyrics (which cover topics like depression, death, sex and drugs) but his musical identity: Can he actually be called a rapper? Either way, his extremely cultivated persona was always going to attract haters, as emo did in its heyday. Still, it’s always good to have characters on the music scene, and for all of us who remember MySpace, tracks like Awful Things will emit more amusement than anger. I recently attended Reading Festival for the first time and was (pleasantly) surprised by just how few remnants of rock culture remained, but anyone who says rock is dead is ignoring the emerging teen alt-pop scene. Acts likes Twenty One Pilots, Halsey and Melanie Martinez have obsessive young fans, and Lil Peep has similar appeal, with a modern, genre-bending sound and a completely unsubtle, self-consciously stylised interpretation of teen angst for the Instagram age.

Future Stars: Daniel Caesar (Unsigned)

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Toronto has become known for its R&B scene thanks to Drake and The Weeknd, and it may be about to produce its next star in the super-cool and soulful Daniel Caesar. Daniel has been collaborating with local artists since his teens, and released his first album last month at the age of 22. Although his early releases attracted a lot of buzz, and he has several videos with millions of views, the album came out on his own label, Golden City Recordings. He’s best known for the track Get You, featuring Kali Uchis, who I wrote about back in 2015. He performed recently on James Corden’s Late Late Show, as part of their Apple Music Up Next series, promoting new artists. Daniel has been strongly championed by Beats 1, and his Wikipedia is littered with references to his success on Apple Music, suggesting they may have some investment in the project. While Get You is too slow and subtle for my tastes, he’s clearly a talented performer with a great voice and a natural, classy coolness. He becomes more interesting when he taps into his gospel influences (his dad was a gospel singer and his family very religious) on tracks such as We Find Love.